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A natural gas well in West Virginia. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Fracking for the children

Del. Rick Impallaria wants to see the state move forward with fracking in western Maryland and said Monday night that the controversial natural gas extraction process should be used to help children.

Impallaria, a Republican from Harford and Baltimore County, offered an amendment Monday night during a debate on a bill that would impose a three year moratorium on fracking in the state while also requiring a new study on the potential health effects of the process. The amendment, one of eight offered during a lengthy evening debate that spilled over from the morning session, would have exempted the University of Maryland and required that it lease out lands owned in western Maryland for natural gas drilling.

“Why shouldn’t we be using the natural resources of this state to help education and put our kids through college?” Impallaria asked.

The delegate estimates the state could receive between $11 million and $55 million for the leases, money that could go toward lowering tuition in the state, creating jobs and easing budget constraints related to funding the state university system.

Additionally, Impallaria said the pilot program would allow the university to study fracking first hand in a controlled situation where the public would not be exposed to drinking wells should they become contaminated.

“It’s a sensible amendment,” Impallaria said. “This is for the children.”

But not everyone agreed.

Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery and chairman of the Environment and Transportation Committee (who Busch introduced as a man who also “loves children) said the amendment would create an exception for one entity while everyone else would be banned.

“The University of Maryland is exceptional but it shouldn’t be in this way,” Barve said.

The House rejected the amendment 47-92. The other seven amendments were similarly rejected before the House gave preliminary approval to the moratorium bill. A final vote could come as soon as late Tuesday.

The fate of the bill is less optimistic once it hits the Senate where it is sure to be assigned to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City and chairwoman of the committee, has made it clear this year as in years past that she is not in favor of bills that would prohibit or place a moratorium on fracking in Maryland.